The Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Health (MOH) in partnership with the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), has launched a vaccination for health care workers against Hepatitis B in Kalulushi District of the Copperbelt Province.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic diseases.
The Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya said that the launch of the Hepatitis B Vaccination was a major milestone in the protection of health care workers in Zambia.
In a speech read on his behalf at Kalulushi General Hospital by the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary – Technical Services Dr Kennedy Malama, Dr Chilufya said that according to the Zambia Population- Based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA) 2016 survey, 5.4% of the adult population in Zambia were exposed to the Hepatitis B Virus infection, with the risk being particularly high among people living with HIV.
He said that there was need to protect health care workers because they were at a higher risk of getting Hepatitis B as compared to the general population.
“Hepatitis B is highly infectious and health care workers by virtue of their job which exposes them to patient’s body fluids are at greater risk of contracting the infection. The infection has been reported among health care workers in various parts of the country including Kalulushi district,” Dr Chilufya Said.
Dr Chilufya disclosed that the rate of exposure among health care workers and Students in Kalulushi was at 15.7 per cent.
“To ensure protection for all those at high risk of contracting the hepatitis B infection, this programme has targeted all health care workers in the District, including our future health work force, and here I am referring to students in the two schools of nursing within this district,” Dr Chilufya said.
And CIDRZ Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Roma Chilengi, said Hepatitis B was an important public health issue because it caused a lot of acute suffering in its victims.
“Hepatitis B is highly infectious and recent evidence has shown that Viral Hepatitis B is more infectious than HIV and could be passed on through direct contact or through sexual intercourse with an infected person making it highly contagious,” Dr Chilengi said.
He said that the vaccination of health care workers project in Kalulushi District, was a small step towards beginning to raise understanding and awareness of the Hepatitis B problem, therefore this particular program was targeting the health care worker first, because once they were protected, they would be able to protect the public at large.
The project would endeavour to establish the extent of Hepatitis B exposure among health care workers taking Kalulushi district as a sample of the health care community in Zambia.
“We want to find out among the health care workers, what proportion may be exposed and what proportion may be considered immune and naturally protected against Hepatitis B. We also want to identify health care workers who need vaccination and vaccinate them, whilst, health care workers who are infected with Hepatitis B will be put on treatment using anti -viral therapy”, Dr Chilengi said.
Dr Chilengi noted that the project was important because it was the first effort at National level to have accurate statistics on the problem of Hepatitis B among health care workers in Zambia, therefore, it would help identify who may be at risk, and these would be vaccinated and protected.
During the Launch, CIDRZ also donated various hygiene products to Kalulushi General Hospital.